SACKVILLE, and MIRAMICHI NB – New Brunswick’s Miramichi River is known for its iconic scenery, fishing spots, and is a key natural resource for many local animals and fish. This fall, the Miramichi River Environmental Assessment Committee (MREAC) has teamed up with a researcher from Mount Allison University to get a better picture of a not-so-welcome new resident in region, ticks.
Dr. Vett Lloyd, a Mount Allison University biology professor, whose research specializes in ticks and Lyme disease is working with volunteers from the MREAC to complete tick dragging along the river. This type of field work sees individuals don protective gear and walk along the river with large sheets of white fabric collecting ticks and other insects. The samples will be analyzed in Lloyd’s lab over the winter to gauge the number of ticks, particularly black-legged ones who are known to carry the bacteria which causes Lyme disease, in the region.
“We’ve seen an increase in the tick population in the Maritimes and across Canada over the past several years; ticks are here and they are out year-round,” says Lloyd. “The Committee’s field work this fall is helping to give us a clearer picture of tick populations in central and northern New Brunswick, an area that climate models predict is hospitable for ticks and which we haven’t fully explored yet. We would benefit from a clearer picture of the current distribution and spread of the black-legged tick in New Brunswick”
Ticks have been found to travel on migratory animals, such as birds, mice and moose, who frequent rivers on a regular basis.
The MREAC staff and volunteers have been out all fall and plans to continue their work until the end of November. Many kilometers of tick dragging effort, focused on population centres will promote a greater awareness of the risk associated with this invading pest.
Harry Collins, executive director of the MREAC, is one of the active tick searchers.
“We started the collection in early September and plan to be out in the field until the snow really starts to fall,” says Collins. “Our membership has been pleased with the project and we are eager to learn the findings from Dr. Lloyd and her research team around the local tick population so we can continue to enjoy the region safely.”
Findings from the study will be conveyed to people in the community by MREAC and also submitted for publication in peer-reviewed scientific academic journals.
Funding for this project has been made possible through a contribution from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Photo credit: Miramichi River Environmental Assessment Committee